Mental Health in the Workplace

October 16, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

With most adults spending more time at work than anywhere else, it should be no surprise that our jobs have a big impact on our mental health.

Our work environment, whether we feel our work is meaningful, and our work-life balance can all contribute to positive or negative mental health, which can in turn affect how we perform at work.

And working long hours and not spending enough time on self-care and personal interests, is a recipe for poor mental health.

Discrimination at work can also have a negative impact on mental health. People who experience discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, disability or other identity factors may be at a higher risk of mental health challenges.

Creating a workplace in which mental health and well-being is recognized as important is a way to avoid these kinds of situation and reduce the risks of work-related mental health challenges.

Conversations with colleagues

We can all contribute to creating a work environment that fosters positive mental health, in which everyone’s well-being is recognized.

Reaching out to a co-worker who hasn’t been themselves lately may brighten up their day. If you’re experiencing challenges yourself, bringing it up with a manager may help you recognize how you’re feeling and could lighten the load.

Each of these actions and conversations reduces the stigma around mental health, making reaching out for help easier and creating a better working environment for everyone.

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges at work

It can feel very difficult to let someone at work know you’re experiencing mental health challenges. However, it is important to reach out if possible. Keeping our challenges to ourselves can make them harder to cope with and could lead to bigger problems over time.

It’s true that some workplaces and workplace cultures may be less open to discussions about mental health than others, and that stigma around these issues still exists.

However, if we have a supervisor, manager or a co-worker we can trust and feel comfortable around, talking with them when we’re struggling, or if our work responsibilities and environment are affecting our mental health, can help us cope with these challenges, while also combating stigma in the workplace.

If we do that, we can move forward through our challenges and help create a workplace in which the importance of mental health is discussed, recognized and valued.

Do you feel like you might be experiencing mental health challenges? Take an online screening to check in how you’re doing.

Creating a mentally-healthy workplace

Organizations and employers have a big role to play in fostering a mentally-healthy work environment.

This could be by providing clear expectations around staff roles and responsibilities, making employees feel valued in their work and, importantly, encouraging open and respectful conversations about mental health.

Talking about mental health reduces stigma in the workplace and builds an openness around mental health and well-being into workplace culture that can make it easier for people to reach out when they’re experiencing challenges.

Employers also have a responsibility to recognize and respond to discrimination in the workplace. One of the best ways to do this is to create a work environment in which discrimination is not accepted and ensure that employees that have experienced or who may be at risk of discrimination have ability to bring up and have their concerns addressed.

There are also a range of initiatives and resources employers can implement to build mental well-being into the workplace, such as:

Learn more about mental health

Difference between mental health and mental illness

Back to school: talking about mental health with children and youth

Responding when someone reaches out

Mental health in the workplace: an accommodation guide for management and staff (PDF)